This morning Ken Rosenthal was on MLB Network talking about the Cincinnati Reds and Mike Moustakas. He also mentioned that the team was still active in pursuing free agent right-handed starting pitcher Zack Wheeler.

Here at Redleg Nation we’ve talked about their interest in Zack Wheeler before, and we looked at how much sense he would make for the team this offseason, too. As it is with most deals in free agency, the contract is going to be the sticking point as to whether or not it makes sense to sign a player.

While Rosenthal was talking about the Reds interest in Wheeler this morning, over at The Athletic, he was talking about the kind of interest the now former New York Mets starter was generating on the market as a whole. And it’s a lot.

According to Rosenthal, Zack Wheeler has at least one offer on the table for $100M and five years. That’s the exact prediction from MLB Trade Rumors on what it would take to sign him. Cincinnati isn’t the only team on the list that seems to still be interested in bringing Wheeler in.

The White Sox, Twins, Reds, Rangers and Blue Jays are among the clubs pursuing Wheeler, who is the leading free-agent alternative to fellow right-handers Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg

The Reds already went out and got the pitching, so to speak. Bringing in Sonny Gray, trading for Trevor Bauer, and perhaps just as important, bringing in pitching coach Derek Johnson – the Cincinnati pitching staff went from one of the worst in the game to one of the best in just one season. But adding in Zack Wheeler would take it to another level.

The Reds have long coveted Zack Wheeler. There have been rumors about the team trying to acquire him for about four years now – even while he was injured and missing several seasons. The 29-year-old is coming off of a 2019 season where he posted a 3.96 ERA in 195.1 innings with 50 walks and 195 strikeouts. The season before he made 29 starts with a 3.31 ERA and 182.1 innings with 55 walks and 179 strikeouts. His peripherals are strong – he doesn’t walk many hitters and he misses bats at a good rate. And in an age when everyone hits homers – he keeps the ball in the park.

But there’s always the question of health with any pitcher. And with Zack Wheeler it’s an even bigger question. He’s been healthy over the last two seasons. But from 2015-2017 he threw a grand total of 87.1 innings as he dealt with several different injuries. Teams are weighing that risk along with his upside – which it appears many teams feel is quite high – and making nine-figure offers.

Jon Heyman just reported that a deal could be reached before the Winter Meetings. Those start on Sunday in San Diego and go through Thursday the 12th. It’s possible that we won’t be waiting much longer to find out where Wheeler lands.

Photo of Zack Wheeler by slgckgc on flickr and was altered to fit the site. The license can be found here.

42 Responses

  1. Mark

    I’m all for getting wheeler if you can trade Bauer and Winker for Clint Frazier

    Reply
    • Mike V

      Here Here .. I think that would be a great move !.. Let’s start the rumor mill!

      Reply
  2. Steve Schoenbaechler

    I could see if the Reds do something like this. Even before bringing in anyone, I could see the Reds pinning their hopes for a “better offense” on the young studs like Senzel, Winker, JVM, etc. stepping up their production to what they had in the minors, for example.

    So, if we go after someone like Wheeler, I believe the Reds would be pinning their hopes that their young studs will make some sort of advancement on their offense.

    Also, a move like this I believe may be a bit of protection for our starting rotation. For, Bauer and Disco are FA’s after next season, so we could lose them. Gray is a FA the season after that next season, I believe. Losing 3 starters in the next 2 seasons, the Reds have been down something like that before, recently, and failed miserably in maintaining a strong starting pitching rotation.

    For, that Boddy move with the minors, I don’t see that having an impact on the big league level for 2-3 years.

    Reply
      • Reed Bergen

        I would not count on Aquino. His September is more an indication of what I think should be expected.

  3. wizeman

    Get Wheeler. Package a pitcher…. preferably Mahle or Disco if you have to… add in India who is boxed out and Iglesias and see if you can get Trevor Story plus a prospect. Shortstop problem solved.
    Plenty of closers in house

    Reply
    • Sabr Chris

      .250/.313/.443 wrc+ 99 and just for doofus, .96 h/g career
      .260/.320/.445 wrc+ 98 and 1.07 h/g in 2019

      Is that a player you give multiple controlled assets for?

      That is Trevor Story away for Coolers Field.

      Reply
      • doofus

        Thanks!

        Story’s major league h/g is 1.04 (568/544) for his career.

        I like my own benchmarks. Years of crunching numbers have revealed that people make mistakes and mislead with their calculations.

        Here is another for you. With a middle infielder I try to get a quick read on his range with Average Assists/1350 innings played at his position either SS or 2B. The 1350 inning benchmark is 150 games x 9 innings = 1350. Shortstops usually would have more assists than second baseman.

        Total assists x 1350 divided by number of innings played at that position. Story: 1533 x 1350 / 4638 = 446 average assists, which is very good.

      • doofus

        Pete Rose’s h/g for his career is 1.1948. I consider a player with an average of 1.0 or greater to be good.

    • Colorado Red

      Jeff Bridich, would laugh and hang up the phone.
      Going to take a whole lot more.
      Rockies are now trying to extend Trevor.
      Would lover to have him.
      Also, I would get to give a lot of crap my friends.

      Reply
  4. KYPodman

    Doug (or anyone), thoughts on the Reds pursuing Cueto and bringing him back. Of course, SF would have to pay some of his salary, but, could you imagine Cueto as your “number 5 starter”. What a rotation that could be! He could help mentor Castillo.

    Reply
    • Doug Gray

      I guess the question with Cueto is what exactly are you getting? He’s made 13 starts over the last two seasons. And unless the Giants are willing to eat like $35M of the $49M owed to him….. where’s the upside here?

      Reply
      • KYPodman

        I believe he has 2 years left on contract and I would take Cueto for 7 mil a year as a 5th starter (if SF picks up 35 of 49M salary). He would be almost 2 years removed from TJ surgery. He will turn 34 in Feb, but, it would be great for him to finish is career here.

      • Doug Gray

        It’s only great if he pitches well. If he comes out pitching like Bronson Arroyo in his return…..

  5. Steve D

    Pass. I’d rather spend the $ on Didi, Castellanos/Ozuna some high end relievers and then get a more cost efficient 5th starter in Jan/February like Wood or Keuchel. If none available Mahle will do just fine. If we spend $25 on wheeler I doubt the front office will still address our needs at SS, OF and bullpen. I feel that rotation help should be addressed but should be addressed with a more team friendly deal. I would rather see the team go all out to get one of the top OFers and Didi.

    Reply
    • indydoug

      Please no Ozuna. Not much, if any, of an upgrade over in house OF’s. (at least based on his last 2 years as a Cardinal).

      Reply
  6. FreeHouse

    I like Wheeler but due to his past injuries I wouldn’t invest that much money into him. He could potentially be the next Homer Bailey and Bailey at the time had a better resume than Wheeler has now. Reds need to spend that money on Castellanos.

    Reply
  7. Wes

    No doubt it’s the reds offering the 100 million dollar contract. Instead of signing in cincy Wheelers team is trying to get the bidding up. Seems a positive trend though that he may come to cincy.

    If so, Reds should keep all the pitchers if they do. Bauer and Wheeler are both big strikeout guys and that’s big in GABP. That will also give them a top 5 rotation in all of baseball.

    Reply
  8. Redsvol

    Hard pass on Wheeler. This team can’t afford to have a pitcher with a 100$million contract with a very high likelihood of losing years to injury. Wheeler wasn’t lights out until he got to his contract year. With a position player, you can afford some injuries during a long term contract because they typically don’t lose whole seasons. With pitchers, a small market team can’t afford years lost due to an arm/shoulder injury.

    I would like to see them bring in a veteran or two to compete for starting rotation – just not one that will require a 100 million $ commitment.

    Reply
    • Sliotar

      “Wheeler wasn’t lights out until he got to his contract year.”

      What?

      Everyone has opinions on everything at RLN, but posting incorrect “facts” is no bueno.

      In 2018, Wheeler pitched 182 innings, generated 4.2 WAR…good for $33.6 million in value. ERA/FIP/xFIP (choose imperfect measurement that you prefer) … all under 4.

      All per FanGraphs.

      Following that season, he avoided arbitration, signed for 1 year, almost $6 million.
      And went out and pitched 195 innings, generating 4.7 WAR…$37.6M of value.

      Using “high likelihood of injury” is not deterring other teams, not all big budget, from reportedly pursuing Wheeler.

      Reply
      • Datdudejs

        Good let them pursue him. I hope someone pays him 30 million a year, just not the reds.

  9. Sliotar

    IMO, there is a good case to try and get Wheeler, if the money still available can’t land a reasonable bet for improving the offense.

    The Reds appear to be in “use it, not going to lose it” mode for dumping all available money…. and winning by starting pitching and low scoring/HR-driven games at GABP isn’t the worst of plans.

    Especially when Reds were 22nd in OBP in 2019, and will have several over age 30 position players in the next couple of seasons.

    Reply
  10. Bill J

    What about checking in on Ray of the Dbacks, Grey of the Rockies or Boyd of the Tigers?

    Reply
  11. Wes

    Draft pick comp is higher at 5 years 100 mil too which will scare teams off plus he’s ready to sign. Wheelers gonna be a Red !

    Reply
    • Michael Smith

      @wes I would hope that a 3rd round draft pick does not deter teams from signing talented players.

      Reply
    • Justin

      Reds would lose a their third highest pick whereas the Phillies and White Sox would lose their second highest pick AND $500k of international bonus pool money. Every time the Phillies and White Sox place a bid for Wheeler, it costs them more than it does the Reds. I’m with you Wes!

      Here’s the MLB rules on it:
      • A team that receives revenue sharing will lose its third-highest selection in the following year’s Draft. If it signs two such players, it will also forfeit its fourth-highest remaining pick. If that team loses a free agent, it will be awarded a pick between the first round and Competitive Balance Round A if — and only if — the lost player signs for at least $50 million. If the lost player signs for less than $50 million, the team’s compensation pick would come after Competitive Balance Round B, which follows the second round.

      The following 14 teams qualify for these picks during the 2019-20 offseason: A’s, Brewers, D-backs, Indians, Marlins, Orioles, Padres, Pirates, Rays, Reds, Rockies, Royals, Tigers and Twins.

      Examples: A team with one pick in each round of the 2019 Rule 4 Draft would lose its third-round pick. A team with two first-round picks and one pick in each subsequent round would lose its second-round pick.

      • A team that neither exceeded the luxury tax in the preceding season nor receives revenue sharing will lose its second-highest selection in the following year’s Draft as well as $500,000 from its international bonus pool. If it signs two such players, it will also forfeit its third-highest remaining pick. The 13 clubs that fall into this category during the 2019-20 offseason are the Angels, Astros, Blue Jays, Braves, Cardinals, Dodgers, Giants, Mariners, Mets, Nationals, Phillies, Rangers and White Sox.

      Examples: A team with one pick in each round of the 2019 Rule 4 Draft would lose its second-round pick. A team with two first-round picks would lose its second-highest first round-pick.

      Reply
  12. Justin

    Wheeler is going to be Cole Lite. Wheeler’s most recent season is oddly similar to Cole’s last season in Pittsburg. At the time I recall Cole being talked about for his fastball velocity and spin rates, which are oddly enough the same things that are being said about Wheeler. Add in that we have the pitching department that we do and Wheeler is going to hit a new gear at some point next year. Think Sonny Gray.

    If I were Wheeler, I would be praying that the Reds offered enough to win my services.

    Top 10 national league offense and a top 5 major league pitching staff. How does that not turn into a playoff team.

    Reply
  13. Tom Mitsoff

    Ken Rosenthal said this morning on MLB Network that he believes the Wheeler bidding is now down to Reds, Phillies and White Sox, and that the decision could be made any day now, perhaps even today.

    If the Reds sign him, they can then use DeSclafani, Mahle, Sims, etc., in trades to get the needed position players.

    Reply
    • Tom Mitsoff

      Dallas Morning News reports the Rangers are now out on Wheeler.

      Reply
    • AirborneJayJay

      Derek Johnson loves Zack Wheeler. Kyle Boddy loves Zack Wheeler. Walt Jocketty loves Zack Wheeler. Dick Williams loves Zack Wheeler.
      The Reds lost out to the Phillies on C J.R. Realmuto last winter. I hope they don’t lose out to the Phillies on Wheeler. The White Sox too after they got Grandal.
      However, the LA Angels are after Wheeler too. Rangers bow out and Angels step up.
      If the Reds do actually sign Wheeler, then it will set in motion the dominoes that will soon fall. Like you said, DeSclafani, Mahle, Sims become more available. Add to them Bauer and Romano. I believe one of DeSclafani or Bauer goes and one of Mahle, Sims and Romano goes. One of Ervin and Aquino are bound to go if they trade for an OF or sign one. And Galvis’s hold on a 26 man roster spot also becomes tenuous.

      Reply
      • Tom Mitsoff

        I can’t imagine Bauer being traded. They gave up a lot for him, I believe with the intention of building a championship contender for this coming season.

  14. Troy

    Hope it turns out to be wrong but I’ve heard wheeler to the Phillies for 5/$110

    Reply
    • Steve D

      $118. Too much for an injury prone mediocre pitcher. For $118 mil over 5 I feel we could get Didi and Keuchel. I like that combo better than just Wheeler.

      Reply
  15. Northern Ky Reds

    when you dont have reputation of being a winner, no big free agent will sign a contract here. The reds are know for making a big trade or free agent signing then at the first sign of distress, trade everybody away for sub par talent. They wont sign any of the bigger name pitchers. Everything is a gimmick. They just want that shiny object to get attention.

    Reply
    • TBD

      Northern Ky
      “when you dont have reputation of being a winner, no big free agent will sign a contract here. ”

      What about Manny Machado signing with the Padres, or is that somehow different ?

      Reply
  16. Michael E

    At this point I hope to see a trade. I hope some other team secretly covets Winker or Irvin or India or Mahle or Iglesias and will give up a very good MLB or MLB-ready study prospect for SS or CF or LF. I am already tired of waiting on Winker and his complete lack of athleticism doesn’t bode well for any flexibility moving forward. He’ll be 1B or DH very soon.

    We have depth of mediocrity, and a shrewd GM could pile some quantity together (with one quality piece) and get better quality.

    Seeing a Seager or Lindor or you name it, come over without giving up Lodolo, Greene or Ty Stev would be terrific.

    Also, I’d love to see Reds land that CF from Japan if no other moves or maybe add Bumgarner or some other solid pitcher to round out the rotation.

    Reply

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